Garden tasks in January

This monthly guide is geared to London gardens and their unique conditions. Compiled by the RHS Wisley Plant Centre team
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Need to do in your garden this month

* Recycle your Christmas tree - take the tree to your Council’s recycling facilities or check with your local garden centre, as many will offer a similar service.

* Don't forget to keep feeding the birds. Food is scarce for them over winter, and check their water source is not frozen over. There are seeds, fat balls, tables and lots of wildlife accessories in garden centres.

* If there has been heavy snow in your area, use a broom to knock any weighty snow from the branches of your trees to avoid damage.

* From now until March is the time to start pruning your summer flowering plants like Wisteria. But remember not to prune spring flowering plants, like quince (Chaenomeles), Forsythia or Spiraea as you will remove their spring flowers. To prune Wisteria, cut back the side shoots to two or three buds above the join to the main stem. For a step-by-step guide visit

* Wait for a dry, crisp day to tie wall shrubs and climbers onto their supports to protect them from wind damage. Ornamental vines, ivy, virginia creeper and boston ivy can be cut back now - it is a good idea to keep them away from windows, doors, gutters and roof tiles.

* At this time of year strong winds are expected so stake young trees and check that archways, fence posts and panels are all secure. Also January is usually the coldest month, so make sure all pipes, taps and tender plants are well covered with fleece or bubble wrap to prevent frost damage.

* Keep up with garden maintenance. If you haven’t already, remove all debris from the flower beds. You'll be amazed at how many weeds have already flowered. Dig out annuals and turn over the soil as you go. Exposure to frosts helps to break down the soil and birds can pick off unwanted insects.

* It is a good idea to aerate your lawn to stop it from getting waterlogged during the wetter months. Spike your lawn with a fork.

* If you have got rhubarb in the ground then now is the time to force it for early growth. Clear the soil around the base of the plant and cover with a large pot, bin or decorative forcer. Make sure all holes are plugged so no light can get in.

Snowdrops can be lifted and divided as long as they are replanted straight away

Nice to do in your garden this month

* Plan your Grow Your Own vegetable crops for the coming season. Get absorbed in your favourite seed catalogues and place your orders now to confirm your first choice of varieties. If you really want a head start, you can sow your broad bean, French bean, cauliflower, onion and indoor tomato seeds now. Sow indoors and under cover. Visit for more details.

* Share snowdrops (left) with your friends. They can be lifted and divided now as long as they are replanted straight away.

* Potted bulbs like hyacinths and narcissi will be rooted in their compost now, and can be brought from a cold garage or cold frame into slightly warmer conditions with maximum light indoors to start them into growth (but not a sudden transfer to a hot living room which will produce weak stems).

* Here are some plants to really enjoy in the garden this month: witch hazel, all the dogwoods for their stems, Gaultheria, Clematis cirrhosa, snowdrops and the beautiful hellebores. And to ensure your winter cyclamen keep on flowering, dead head old flower stems and remove any yellow leaves.

Enjoy beautiful hellebores in your garden this month
* Pot up containers with bedding displays for a splash of colour - head down to the garden centre to see what is available. Violas and pansies are always a good choice.

* It is the best time of year to take stock of what you have got and what is missing from your garden. Pour over some gardening books and catalogues, plan some different ideas for 2010 and keep your garden looking fresh.

* If you want to help your Christmas Poinsettia stay in colour for as long as possible, remember to keep it in a well-lit location. Do not let the room temperature fall below 13°C and ensure the compost is quite dry before watering again. Over-watering is the most common cause of failure in poinsettia.

* Treat yourself to a bouquet of fresh flowers. Nothing matches the freshness and fragrance of flowers at this time of year. Go on, you’re worth it.

All images provided courtesy of the Royal Horticultural Society. Visit the online print shop at

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